Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Souvankham Thammavongsa's "The School Bus Driver"

Over at Ploughshares, Ross McMeekin recently did a nice write-up entitled The Best Short Story I Read in a Lit Mag This Week: “The School Bus Driver” by Souvankham Thammavongsa, regarding her piece in Noon Annual, an independent non-profit literary annual published by Noon, Inc. that started back in 2000. Be sure to check out her story, which will hopefully be included in a future prose collection at some point.

[Poem] Leuk Lao

We meet on the road
But once and I cannot tell you

In the time we have:
"We are one."

"What's left, what survived, what remains
Of old dreams, old wars, old loves."

We share atomic lives:

Small, brief, unpredictable orbits,
Curious flurries of motion and smiles.

Who you become after I go,
I can only guess

Except by the photos
Of occasional touring strangers

In which I watch you grow,

While you remember an eye,
A camera, a wave goodbye.

[Poem] Phayvanh Luekhamhan's "Strange Woods"

Based in Vermont, Lao American poet Phayvanh Luekhamhan is one of the only Lao to have ever gone through the Kundiman Fellow program. She was with us at the first National Lao American Writers Summit in Minneapolis in 2010. She's also the author of "I Think of This Every Time I Think of Mountains," with Souphine Phathsoungneune.

She recently shared a new poem of hers, "Strange Woods" at her website at

Be sure to check it out, along with her other work!

President Obama makes Lao history

This week, US president Barack Obama arrived in Laos and became the first American president to ever visit the nation. Lao American artist Nor Sanavongsay did this portrait to mark the historicity of the occasion. You can also get a copy of Nor Sanavongsay's first children's book, A Sticky Mess from Sahtu Press.

President Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in the Year of the Ox. His full name is Barack Hussein Obama II, and he is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office and the first president born outside the continental United States. He was elected twice to represent the American people domestically and abroad, and will leave office at the end of this year. As a note of trivia, he was born the same year that John F. Kennedy took office, and just as the US involvement in Laos was becoming one of JFK's first major policy challenges.

Today, almost 500,000 people in the US trace their roots back to Laos, including Lao, Hmong, Khmu, Lue, Tai Dam, Iu Mien, and others. Many families arrived in the 1970s and 80s as refugees from the Laotian Civil War that ended in 1975. This year is part of the 40th anniversary since the beginning of the Lao diaspora for many.  Laos traces its heritage back to over 600 years to the ancient realm of Lane Xang, but was formally recognized in 1954 by the United Nations following its independence from the French.

In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997 and the WTO in 2013.

Tom Wilson and Pop Art

Tom Wilson, who played Biff in Back to the Future has gone in a really interesting direction, artistically. As I look at a number of his paintings and art pieces that he's been sharing so far, I find myself thinking that I would greatly enjoy seeing a full show of his work. As he explains in the video, he grew up just as Pop Art was taking off, and then in many ways by the time he was done with the Back to the Future series, he'd become Pop Art himself.

I found his approach candid and engaging, with some intriguing moments of insight. Working withthe 30-year old material that figured so largely in who the public said he was "supposed" to "be" I think he is emerging with one of the more artistically interesting and challenging responses possible. I would applaud this. You can see more of his work at 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thanks, Comic Con Palm Springs!

I was delighted to see all of the hard work that went into the inaugural Comic Con Palm Springs for many reasons. Thousands were in attendance this first year, and overall I felt like participants could find many things to entertain themselves throughout the weekend thanks to ambitious programming. 

The overall cost was excellent for a regular participant, and this year parking was wonderful, with most people able to find a parking space easily within two to three blocks of the space. Overall, the temperature inside was more than adequate, considering that outdoors Palm Springs is pretty reminiscent of an Arrakis or Tatooine summer.

This year had a good representation of the major and emerging fandoms, but clearly the Star Wars fandom was fully in force, including a presence by the 501st Legion, aka Vader's Fist, who continue to do exceptional work advocating for charitable causes throughout the year. Mandalorians and members of the Rebel Alliance were also in good attendance, although there weren't many astromechs this year.

The cosplay was abundant and talented, ranging from a variety of Deadpools and Batman villains, particularly Jared Leto-style Jokers. Characters from Dragonball Z, Dr. Who, Team Fortress 2, and many others were represented, and a lot of work clearly went into many of their designs.

The vendor selection was excellent, overall, with many dealing in the Funk Pop vinyl figures, but also some great t-shirts, toys, gaming and costume supplies, and books for collectors at all ends of the spectrum. 

There were some great artists in the Artists Alley, including Rattle Can Heroes. I enjoyed his work because he brought in a clear fine arts background and was doing something different with the way he presented the more recognizable heroes and villains he was depicting. More often than not his work was effective challenging our sense of what a portrait can and should be in the modern age.

Among the other artists I enjoyed was the work of Chris Kawagiwa and Albert Nguyen. Personally, I was also happy to see Michael Golden and Jame O'Barr, whose work were formative parts of my youth. It was also good to see some good friends of mine from the Inland Empire like Jamie Sullivan there. Several small presses caught my attention, including Atomic Basement's Guns A'Blazin, and Karate Pet Shop Press. 

The selection of celebrity guests and artists was great for a first time, with the most attention of course going to Stan Lee. But it felt like James Hong was also among the most popular of the stars there, and it was good to see him recognized for his talents. Bai Ling, who's turning 50 this year, wasn't able to come because she was receiving an award in China for her charity work. 

I was also delighted to meet Gary Goldman, one of the writers of Big Trouble in Little China as we celebrated 30 years since the film came out. I think they've got some great ideas for what can come next!

In the final assessment, I would say that Comic Con Palm Springs can be considered a success, even as there's also always room to grow. There's much that was done well, and I think it will make an excellent addition to the regular events that come to Palm Springs in the future. You can see more of my photos from the event at Flickr.

The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China hardcover

Coming in the first week of September is Tara Bennett & Paul Terry's The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China book, priced around $34 with 176 pages, including never before seen photos, interviews and other materials. I'm excited for this book as the 30th anniversary celebration of Big Trouble in Little China continues, although I'm also a little worried about my expectations in the aftermath of Paul Sammon's classic Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, which, at 464 pages still sets the gold standard for me of what I want to see in a book discussing the production of these classic films of science fiction and fantasy from the 1980s. But as soon as it ships, I'll hopefully be able to give you all a more complete assessment of how well they've done with this much-needed book.

Lao American Writers Summit Coffee Cups

As a reminder from Lao American poet Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, souvenir coffee cups are available if you forgot to get one at the Lao American Writers Summit in San Diego this May. Drop them a line at for more details.

Happy Frankenstein Day!

Otherwise known as the birthday of Mary Wollenstone Shelly, author of the perennial classic "Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus," who many feel should be credited with inventing modern science fiction. Of course, given the passing of Gene Wilder this week, it seems appropriate to present a trailer from Young Frankenstein.


Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week!

"Munch a tic-tac, Dino! Now you've done it, I'm coming over!"
Aguanga, CA

Monday, August 29, 2016

Nor and Alisak Sanavongsay recognized at Laotian Annual Banquet

Congratulations to Lao American writer and artist Nor Sanavongsay as well as his brother Alisak Sanavongsay who were both among those recognized with a Community Appreciation Award from the Laotian American Community of Fresno on Saturday, August 27th at their annual gala. They received their awards for their outstanding community service and leadership across the United States and in the state of California.

In a response, Nor Sanavongsay said "It was an honor to have been invited to attend LACF annual banquet dinner tonight. An event filled with many families, friends and supporters with a vision to unite our community, collaborate, celebrate, and inspire the young generation to dream big and become leaders of tomorrow. Together we can do so much more. Thank you LACF and the community for your continuous support in our work."

You can see Nor Sanavongsay's work at as well as and you can follow one of Alisak Sanavongsay's more well known projects, Cooking with Nana on Youtube at:

The Laotian-American Community of Fresno was founded in 2000 by concerned Laotian community members as a source of mentorship, guidance, and support for community members and their families as new lives were being established in the United States. They are the only Lao-run nonprofit in the Fresno area, and their mission is to promote and preserve Lao cultural heritage and traditions through traditional Lao dance classes and Lao literacy classes, and also to empower and encourage Lao youth to pursue college educations.

Our regular reminder:

As an FYI for those of you just starting to follow my blog, I cover Laos, poetry, art, horror, science fiction, fantasy, comic books, Asian America, non-profits, Cthulhu, cryptozoology, Dachshunds, and "Other." And a big thanks to everyone who's been reading this over the last ten years!

A meeting with Lo Pan

A big thanks to actor James Hong for coming to Comic Con Palm Springs! It was a real delight to be able to hear his perspective and to see his trademark sense of humor and acting live and in person. He's really one of the great elders of our community who helped to build the Asian American arts.

This year he discussed his career and the thirtieth anniversary of Big Trouble in Little China, and it became clear how pivotal his role and characterization of Lo Pan was to making it the cult classic it is today. There's so much to learn from him, and I hope more people take the time to appreciate his artistic legacy in the coming years ahead.

If you get a chance to see him again at an event, I absolutely recommend it!

Happy Birthday, Soudary Kittivong Greenbaum!

Today for Lao American Artists Heritage Month, we wish a happy birthday to writer Soudary Kittivong-Greenbaum, who was one of the founders of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project that began in the 1990s to bring together the diasporic voice of  Lao Americans. Much of where we are today would not have been possible without her legacy.

While her literary output has dropped off considerably from the time I first met her in 2001, she is still sharing pieces from to time like this one that appeared in Little Laos on the Prairie in November, 2015.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Aliens celebrates 30 years

The classic science fiction film Aliens turns 30 this year. It's one of the interesting examples of speculative literature used to respond to the Vietnam War, albeit abstractly, and so it always holds a special place in my heart, even as follow-up sequels were consistently underwhelming.

 For my Laotian American colleagues, of course, I would hope many see that science fiction is still WIDE open for a counter-response from our perspective on the conflicts and its aftermaths. What would it mean to tell the story of the Secret War framed through this lens, and issues such as UXO, decades later? What might happen if we saw the conflict through the lens of the "Aliens" with greater nuance? Or, even a post-war study of the xenomorphs arriving on Earth? I took a particular stab at this with my poem "Sympathy for the Xenomorph," but I know there's more that can be done on these themes.

While we mull those possibilities, a deluxe blu-ray edition is being issued for the anniversary. On a poet's budget, I don't get to watch things in blu-ray, but it certainly sounds like an interesting opportunity. But then again, the release of the Blade Runner anniversary edition was so problematic, I would recommend one wait until other reviews come in before committing to the purchase.

IO9 suggests "This 30th-anniversary edition comes with art cards and a book of art from Dark Horse Aliens comics, with new cover art made especially for this. (There’s also a new documentary titled “The Inspiration and Design of Aliens” listed among the extras such as deleted and extended scenes, art galleries, and a few others which don’t seem to be new.)"

As someone who appreciates the film, I would get a comprehensive set that features both the special edition with restored footage, and the theatrical edition. I also wish there were ways to get the foreign audio tracks, if any, to see how different international audiences were shown the film, and if there were tonal shifts, rephrasing of idiomatic expressions, etc. Both Aliens and Blade Runner would be my top two films from my generation that I'd like to see presented in a classic Criterion Collection format. But so it goes.

Lao-American reading center opens in Luang Prabang

The Lao-American reading center is open in the Luang Prabang Public Library. Hours are Mondays-Fridays 8:00-17:00. Topics include business and economics, protection of the environment, trafficking in persons and narcotics, democracy and human rights, and current events in ASEAN countries and around the world. It also contains materials about American people, society, values, literature, arts, sports, history, and government policies.

ສູນອ່ານປຶ້ມ ລາວອາເມລິກາ ແມ່ນຕັ້ງຢູ່ທາງດ້ານໃນຂອງຫໍສະໝຸດແຂວງຫຼວງພະບາງ ເຊິ່ງໄດ້ມີປຶ້ມອ່ານຫຼາຍກວ່າ 1000 ເຫຼັ້ມ ແລະ ວາລະສານພາສາອັງກິດ ໄວ້ໃຫ້ທ່ານອ່ານ ເພື່ອຊ່ວຍພັດທະນາຄວາມສາມາດທາງດ້ານອ່ານພາສາອັງກິດ ແລະ ຮຽນຮູ້ດ້ານອື່ນໆຕື່ມອີກເຊັ່ນ: ເສດຸຖະສາດ ແລະ ທູລະກິດ, ການປົກປັກຮັກສາສິ່ງແວດລ້ອມ, ສິດທິມະນຸດ ແລະ ສິ່ງເສບຕິດ, ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ແລະ ການຄ້າມະນູດ, ກິດຈະກຳຕ່າງໆຂອງທີ່ຢູ່ປະເທດອາຊຽນ ແລະ ທົ່ວໂລກ. ນອກຈາກນັ້ນ ຍັງມີເອກະສານການດຳລົງຊີວິດກ່ຽວກັບຄົນອາເມລິກາ, ສັງຄົມສາດ, ຄຸນຄ່າທາງວັດທະນະທຳ, ວັນະຄະດີ, ສິນລະປະ, ກິລາ, ປະຫວັດສາດ ແລະ ນະໂຍບາຍຂອງລັດຖະບານ.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Santa Rosa Toy and Comic Con 2016

Sonoma County's Original Toy and Comic Con is coming back strong for its 4th year! This year will be "even bigger than previous years with more Guests Activities and Dealers. Come check out everything from 200 plus toy and comic dealers to Movie cars, larping, a video game room, panels, live wrestling from SPW, a lego free play area and a whole lot more!!"

This years special guests include Phil Lamarr, Vincent Ward, Veronica Taylor, Catherine Sutherland, Tom Beland, Jon Provost, Kathy Garver, C. Andrew Nelson, and many more.

Check the facebook page or website for updates and more info. It will be held at Sonoma County Event Center at the Fairgrounds at 1350 Bennett Valley Rd, Santa Rosa, California.

Book of Starry Wisdom

An actual physical copy of the Book of Starry Wisdom has been spotted,and for those who backed it on Kickstarter, your copies should be arriving soon from the recently formed Strix Publishing.

The Book of Starry Wisdom compiles newly edited editions of H.P. Lovecraft’s public domain cycle of Cthulhu stories, edited and produced by Simon Berman, and illustrated by renowned deific and fantasy artist, Valerie Herron (The Book of the Great Queen). Accompanied by essays and musings by some of today’s premiere Lovecraftian scholars, writers, and devotees, The Book of Starry Wisdom is a luxurious hardback tome, featuring a leather textured cover with gold foil pressed symbols of significance to the Cult of Cthulhu, 13 interior B&W illustrations, as well as other features.

I'm looking forward to getting my own copy soon, and will share more pictures once it arrives.

Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur

Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur is a collection of Decadent poetry by figures like Eric Basso, Kristin Prevallet, John Yau, Leigh Blackmore and others.

According to the lead writer, John T. Allen:
"This book is an attempt by myself and the contributors in our "Yellow" group to take the "Yellow King" out of the "Mythos" box and restore Robert W. Chambers' to his roots; the literary "movement" referred to as "Decadent". The author, Robert W. Chambers, knew titanic figures like Oscar Wilde, the deranged Maurice Rollinat, and many others in his own time. This made a huge impact on him, thus "the King In Yellow", a diseased spirit of madness and self destruction. To our mind this has less to do with weird fiction than a coupling of poetic alchemy to raise this spirit of pestilence and let it dim the bulbs of our collective consciousness."

Behind the scenes, I would say this book has undergone a most peculiar set of misfortunes, setbacks, madness, and hazards of industry that would make me wonder if some true curse has not been visited upon the text. This is one book where I would remark: Engage with it only if you dare.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uncanny Magazine wins Hugo!

Over the weekend we received the great news that Uncanny Magazine won a 2016 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” (translated by Ken Liu) won a Hugo in the Best Novelette category. This is exciting news for everyone involved! 

Uncanny Magazine has been a very supportive magazine for my poetry, so I deeply appreciate all of the hard work and space they've made for voices like mine and so many others. They recently concluded their successful kickstarter for 2017, and their submission period is currently open.

I would also point everyone to the other candidates in the semiprozine category this year, because they're all doing work to grow and diversify the markets for science fiction and fantasy:

  • Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff 
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews 
  • Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden 
  • Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie

Annual Laotian-American Community of Fresno Banquet 2016

The Laotian-American Community of Fresno is a 501(c) non-profit organization that was established in the year 2000. Their mission is to empower youths and families to achieve educational and socioeconomic success. Their programs consist of youth mentoring, leadership development, family activities, and Lao cultural and language classes.

Their annual community banquet is coming up! This year, it will be held at the University Square Hotel in Fresno on August 27, 2016. The purpose of the event is to bring youths and families together to celebrate their successes and to honor those who have made a great impact in the community. They rely heavily on the donations of friends, supporters and local businesses. They have been fortunate to have the generous support of private donors, businesses and foundations.

They hope that you too will consider attending this great event and be a part of our team of supporters.

Their 2016 keynote speaker will be Dr. Khonepheth Lily Liemthongsmout, Ed.D, Coordinator, Linke Learning Sacramento City Unified School District, College and Career Readiness Dept.

If you would like to learn more about their programs, please visit their office at 1940 N. Fresno St. or go to

Monday, August 22, 2016

My Elgin Award arrived!

My Elgin Award for Book of the Year recently arrived from the Science Fiction Poetry Association following a brief detour through a wormhole and Wisconsin apparently. It bears mentioning that my niece wasted no time commandeering it for her upcoming intergalactic monster tea party.

I received the Elgin Award for my 2013 book of Lao American Lovecraftian poetry, DEMONSTRA, from Innsmouth Press, a micro-publisher of dark fiction and horror, particularly work inspired by the writers of the Lovecraft circle and modern writers of Weird fiction. My book also featured the work of Lao American artist Vongduane Manivong.

This award is given by the Science Fiction Poetry Association to recognize the best full-length book and chapbook of speculative poetry published in the previous year. The Elgin Award is named after the founder of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, Suzette Haden Elgin. Incidentally, voting for this year's awards concludes September 15th, with many strong candidates for consideration this year. If you're an active member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, please remember to vote.

Kampot Writers & Readers Festival coming November

If you're in Cambodia this November, you'll want to put the Kampot Writers and Readers Festival on your list of events to check out.

This  is an initiative to promote literacy and champion new ideas celebrating Cambodia's vibrant arts and culture scene. KWRF is an annual festival produced and presented by KAMA (Kampot Arts and Music Association) and a dedicated team of volunteers. For detailed information visit: to get a sense of the project's ambitions.

As with any festival of this nature, donations and volunteers who can help to organize it are always welcome.You can also visit them on facebook at:

75 Years of Captain America: What can it mean for Lao in diaspora?

This weekend, Lao American artist Nor Sanavongsay shared his update of a classic Captain America cover. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Captain America, and I'm reminded of a point in time when our writers and artists weren't driven by an urge to present what was strictly "profitable" or "popular" but were willing to put their convictions on the line in their art. 

For Lao Americans with roots in the refugee experience and our post-war diaspora, I've often argued that we have a responsibility to remember the importance of freedom, free expression and civic engagement as part of a participatory democracy. And there must always be vigilance against those who would use their freedom to the disadvantage and exploitation of others. This is hard for many. There's an impulse to not rock the boat. But we can and MUST reach for the better nature within ourselves, even when it seems contrary to our own self-interests.

Quoting W. Somerset Maugham: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."

For the Lao American artists and writers of today, we have a responsibility to challenge ourselves and our community to imagine what it might be like to live fully within our freedoms to the benefit of all. Even if there are those in our society who undermine and abuse those privileges, how might we nurture the best practices, the highest ideals so many fought for for this generation and the next yet to come? What might our heroes look like, if we cannot find them among us today?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

[Poem] Arachne's Daughter and The New Humenu, 2112 at Defensestration

As announced previously, my poems "Arachne's Daughter" and "The New Humenu, 2112" are now in the August 20th issue of Defenestration. Loosely speaking, they're joined by the theme of hunger, with one set in the far but easily imaginable future.

My thanks to the editors for sharing these poems with their readership. Be sure to check it out, as well as the poetry by Thomas Cavazos, Susan Chertkow, Charles Edward Wright, Anton Rose, and Grace Marshan. They also have seven short stories, and you can download the entire issue in pdf form.

Doxiepunk: Dachshund Adventure of the Week

"Happy birthday, H.P. Lovecraft from the Dachshunds of Tindalos!"
San Pedro, CA

Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy Birthday Li-Young Lee

Happy birthday to the poet Li-Young Lee!

Li-Young Lee was born to a Chinese family in 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia. His family's journey took him eventually to Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, and then the United States, with time spent in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, and Iowa. He has been living in Chicago for some time now.

His books have been deeply influential on many Asian American poets, including those from Laos and in the Hmong community. These books include  The Winged Seed: A Remembrance; Behind My Eyes; Book of My Nights; The City in Which I Love You; and Rose. Many of them have received awards.

He holds a Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award, the I. B. Lavan Award, three Pushcart Prizes, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from State University of New York at Brockport.

I've always found even the brief moments I get to visit with him insightful and constructive to my own poetic process. He has an amazing way with questions that get to the heart of the matter. Be sure to check out his work.

Happy World Photography Day

Granted, my camera's in the shop these days, so I have to make do with what I've got this month, but happy World Photography Day!

As this is also national Lao American Artists Heritage Month, I'm also doing the shoutout to several of our leading Lao American photographers including Seny Norasingh, Khampha Bouaphanh, Dr. Wtpho, Krysada Panusith Phounsiri, Kristina Tran Waldron, and Mounty Soungpradith. 

Who are some of your favorite photographers?

Amtrak announces 2016 Amtrak Writers Residency Recipients

Amtrak recently announced the selection of the second group of writers selected to participate in the #AmtrakResidency program. Over the next year, they will work on writing projects of their choice in the unique workspace of a long-distance train. The residents offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country:

Abigail Taylor-Sansom is a New York City actor, playwright, and screenwriter. Her plays have received over thirty productions or workshops at theaters throughout the United States and Canada. Her play Fine Art is published and licensed by Heuer, and a monologue from Don’t Call Us (We’ll Call You) will be anthologized in a collection by Smith & Kraus in 2016. Taylor-Sansom is a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She is enrolled in the 2016-2017 Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA. Follow her #AmtrakResidency on Twitter and Instagram at @tay_sans.

Alexandra Petri is a columnist for the Washington Post where she writes for the opinion page and the ComPost blog, which offers a “lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.” Her writing also has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Newsday. Petri’s work for the stage includes Rare Medium Well Done, One Room Over and Miss Emma’s Matchmaking Agency for Literary Characters. Her plays have been performed in theaters and at festivals across the country. In 2015 she released a collection of essays, A Field Guide To Awkward Silences. She tweets at @petridishes.

Anne Britting Oleson is a Maine-based writer of poems, short stories, book reviews and essays, and she also takes photographs. Her work has appeared in publications including the Cimarron Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Aurorean. As a member of Simply Not Done, a women’s reading, writing and teaching collaborative, she has participated in public readings in New York City and across New England. Her recent work includes a poetry collection, Counting the Days, and a novel, The Book of the Mandolin Player, which chronicles life in a small Maine town. When not writing, Oleson enjoys biking, hiking and discovering new music.

Brian Sonia-Wallace is a Los Angeles-based poet and entrepreneur working on revitalizing poetry for the 21st Century. As RENT Poet and co-director of Melrose Poetry Bureau, Sonia-Wallace has paid his rent since 2014 writing poems for strangers on his trusty typewriter, and anthologized the experience in his first book of poetry, I Sold These Poems, Now I Want Them Back. Sonia-Wallace is a 2016 Artist-in-Residence for the City of Los Angeles and a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award nominee. He tweets @rentpoet.

Brianna Albers is a poet, writer, and storyteller, located in the Minneapolis suburbs. In 2016, she founded Monstering, a literary and cultural arts magazine for women and femmes with disabilities; she currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief. Her work can be found in Guernica Magazine, Word Riot, and Winter Tangerine Review, among others. She was named one of 30 up-and-coming writers under 30 years of age by Phosphene Literary Journal, and her début chapbook, Why I’m Not Where You Are, was a finalist in Where Are You Press’ “Where Are You Poet” contest; it was published in 2016 via Words Dance Publishing. Follow her on Twitter at @bhalbers.

Charles Beale is a film actor, producer, writer and director based in Los Angeles, California. His recent projects include the short films AA and Code; having written and directed both. Currently, he is producing another science fiction short film, as well as the pilot issue for a new comic book series he is writing. Beale has produced, directed, and acted in a number of award winning short films, including the 2011 Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts 24 Hour Film Challenge in which his team placed first. Follow him on Instagram at @Charlesirvingbeale and Twitter at @Chucklesthekid.

Rachel Monroe is based in the West Texas town of Marfa where she is a freelance writer, occasional radio host and a volunteer firefighter. Her writing focuses on crime, utopias, small towns, emergencies, and border issues. Monroe’s work has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, Oxford American, Texas Monthly and the Guardian. New York Magazine recently named Monroe “one of 56 women journalists everyone should read.” Her radio work includes more than a dozen interviews with writers for Marfa Public Radio. She tweets at @rachmonroe.

Lucile Scott is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. She has reported on national and international health and human rights issues for over a decade, and has traveled to numerous countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean as part of this work. Most recently, she worked as a writer and editor at the United Nations. In addition, she has written and/or directed plays that have been featured at numerous New York City venues, as well as at the Edinburgh and Hollywood Fringe Festivals. She hails from Lexington, Kentucky, and moved to New York after graduating from Northwestern University. Currently, she is searching for ‘purple’ America, or our commonalities in this red v. blue election year, and you kind find out more about her exploits on Facebook and Instagram using #SearchingForPurpleAmerica. You can find her on Twitter at @lucilebscott.

Natalie Zutter is a playwright, aspiring TV writer, and pop culture critic based in New York City. While her childhood dream was to be an astronaut, she nonetheless shot for the moon and fell among the proverbial stars as a Staff Writer at the sci-fi/fantasy website, in a metaphorical rocket at the top of the Flatiron Building. A graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study (with a concentration in Serialized Storytelling and Internet Culture) and current member of the EMG Playwriting Workshop, Natalie writes plays about female superheroes, sex robots, and time travel. Follow her journey on Twitter @nataliezutter and Instagram at @zutsuit.

Petrina Crockford is a novelist based in Los Angeles, CA, where she’s a Provost’s Fellow in USC’s Creative Writing & Literature Program. She was the 2015 Gerald Freund Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, and she’s received honors from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Rolex Mentor and Protege Literature Prize. She studied English Literature and photography at Yale and writing at Johns Hopkins. She’ll be crossing the Southwest as she finishes her novel. You can find her on Twitter at @LaPetra21.

Maxwell Ivey was born into a family of carnival owners in Texas. He lost most of his vision by age twelve, but his natural gusto for life lead him to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, graduate college, and participate in the family business until his father’s death lead to the closure of their small show. Face with his own mortality he was treated for sleep apnea and later had gastric surgery losing over 250 pounds. He started his own business helping people buy and sell amusement equipment. He has inspire many by his ability to overcome the challenges of running a website, writing a blog, recording videos, and managing the myriad of social media networks. This lead to starting a second business offering life coaching and a second website to share his experiences of being a blind entrepreneur. He has written two self help books, appeared on dozens of podcasts and radio shows, and has become internationally known as The Blind Blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxwellivey.

Laura and John. As writers and filmmakers, Laura Boersma and John Stewart Muller have been working together over 16 years creating everything from feature films, to episodic series, to national commercials, to branded content. In 2008, they released their award-winning debut feature, Fling, which they both wrote and produced and John directed. Fling enjoyed a successful festival run, was released theatrically, and is currently available worldwide on a multitude of platforms. It has reached 15 million views on YouTube alone. Their latest feature, the stylish psychological thriller Indiscretion, was acquired by A&E Networks for worldwide release and premiers July 23 on Lifetime. Written and produced by Laura and John (who also directs), Indiscretion stars Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Cary Elwes, Christopher Backus, and Katherine McNamara. Laura and John are currently in development on multiple film and episodic projects through their Santa Monica-based production company, Granfalloon Productions. Laura is also a contributing writer to MovieMaker Magazine. You can find them on Twitter at @lauraboersma and @johnsmuller.

Erlina Ortiz is resident playwright with Power Street Theatre Company (PSTC) in Philadelphia. Upon graduating from Temple University with a degree in theatre, Erlina had her first two full length plays produced with PSTC in 2013 and 2014. She Wore Those Shoes, a movement play about rape culture in the military will have a full production at the Iron Factory October 2016 with PSTC. As a young emerging Latina-American playwright, Erlina’s voice is unique and important to the growing landscape of theatre in America and will only continue to become more relevant.

Hollie Overton is a Texas native who now calls LA home. A TV writer whose work includes “Cold Case,” and “The Client List,” Hollie is currently a Co-Producer on Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” Hollie’s debut thriller, BABY DOLL was recently published in the US, UK and eleven other countries. For more info, visit Hollie at or connect on twitter @hollieoverton.

Grace Anne Stevens is an inspirational and motivational speaker specializing in encouraging all people to find their truth and live their authentic life. Grace has written two books; No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, and Musings on Living Authentically. She is presently writing a children’s book, The Alphabet of Self, which will introduce the concepts of parts to children. Grace writes each week on The Huffington Post with her blog/columns where she continues to share her thoughts and experiences on living authentically.After four decades in high tech, she returned to school at the age of fifty-eight and earned an MA in Counseling Psychology at the age of sixty-two. Grace transitioned gender at the age of sixty-four successfully in two vastly different workplaces, the technical and counseling worlds. Grace strongly believes, “We are all so much more than just gender.”

Jeffrey Sweet has had plays and musicals produced in New York, Chicago and on stages around the country and internationally, winning a lot of awards that aren’t quite the Pulitzer. Among the actors who have appeared in them are Amy Morton, Jon Cryer, Jack Klugman, William Petersen, Ed Asner, Helen Hunt, Nathan Lane, Judy Kaye, Richard Kind, Jill Eikenberry, Austin Pendleton and many other fine people. In February, Jeff McCarthy and Nambi E. Kelley will star off-Broadway in his play, Kunstler, about the famed attorney. Among his books are The O’Neill (about the O’Neill Center) and Something Wonderful Right Away (about Second City). (He’s written a lot of TV, too.) He also appears in a solo show, You Only Shoot the Ones You Love, wherever anybody turns on a light.

Krithika Varagur is a writer and journalist in New York. She’s an editor of the Huffington Post’s solutions journalism initiative, What’s Working, and reports on counterextremism, beauty and diversity, and social impact. Her work has also appeared in Vogue India, i-D, the New York Times, McSweeney’s, and the Harvard Lampoon. She is an amateur mycologist and tweets as @krithikaltheory.

Sarah Federman, PhD could think of no better place edit her book about railroads than on a train. Her book addresses the role of the French National Railways (SNCF) in the transport of deportees during World War II and the conflict existing today in the United States over whether the company has made amends. In telling this story, the book follows the lives of four French Jewish citizens who all happened to find themselves on the last trains to Auschwitz—trains that left after D-Day. Sarah’s work raises larger questions about the role of corporations in mass violence. She conducted extensive research in the U.S. and France, including 120 interviews (80 with survivors), archival work, pro bono work for the U.S. government, and much more. Sarah received her PhD in conflict resolution from George Mason University (GMU). The Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Carey Institute for Global Good, and Kathryn Davis Foundation, also funded this work. Follow her on Twitter @SarahFederman.

Shannon Dell is a travel writer whose work has been featured in publications such as Matador Network, BBC Travel, and Business Insider. She spends most of her time gallivanting around Colorado, writing about everything from flattened fauna to spiritual midwifery to the raw humanity of travel. When she’s not writing, she’s sharpening her social media skills for Matador Network and impulsively overloading her calendar with more travel plans than she can keep up with. One step at a time, she’s making her way around the world fueled by her passion for finding the quirks in every crack of the globe. Follow her on Twitter at @Strange_and_New.

Susan Piver is the New York Times bestselling author of The Hard Questions, the award-winning How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, and The Wisdom of a Broken Heart. Her latest book, Start Here Now: An Open-Hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation was published in September, 2015. She is at work on her next book, “The Four Noble Truths of Love.” Susan has been a student of Buddhism since 1993, graduated from a Buddhist seminary in 2004 and was authorized to teach meditation in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage in 2005. In 2011, she launched the Open Heart Project, a completely virtual meditation center that lives entirely in the cloud. There are close to 20,000 members all over the world.

Tamara Lush is a romance novelist based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her most recent work is Tell Me a Story, a serial novel in five episodes. Her first two books, Hot Shade and Into the Heat, were published by Boroughs Publishing Group. Tamara is also a correspondent with The Associated Press. She is a graduate of Emerson College. You can follow her on Twitter at @tamaralush.

Tiffany Quay Tyson lives and writes in Denver, Colorado. Her debut novel, Three Rivers, was published in 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. It was a finalist for both the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction. Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Tiffany worked for a brief post-college stint as a newspaper reporter in the Mississippi Delta, where she received the Frank Allen Award for Journalism. She went on to work for PBS stations and literacy nonprofits in Texas and Colorado, and was awarded a Heartland Emmy for co-writing an episode of a children’s television program. She serves on the faculty of the Lighthouse Young Writers Program in Denver and is currently working on her second novel. Tiffany tweets @tqtyson.

Toby Elkin. A versatile journalist and interviewer, Tobi Elkin is innately curious about people, places, and ideas and enjoys finding the connections between them. She takes a special interest in intergenerational stories and creativity—where it comes from, and what sustains it. She has written for AOL, The Associated Press, Modern Loss, Narratively, Robb Report, The Huffington Post, and The Lo-Down, a hyper-local news and culture site that covers New York City’s Lower East Side. 
Tobi is a volunteer with the Seward Park Conservancy which is committed to improving Seward Park, designated the oldest municipal playground in the U.S., and serves as a public member of her local community board. Tobi is delighted to participate in the #AmtrakResidency program. She tweets @TobiElkin.

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship open

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship Competition is now open. Once you register, an email will be sent to you shortly with your login credentials. If you applied in the previous year’s competition, you may use your previous username when you complete their form, but they will issue you a new password. No portion of your previous application will be retrievable for use in this year’s competition.

Those who have already received a Guggenheim Fellowship are not eligible to apply for another. The application deadline for the 2017 United States and Canada competition is Monday, September 19, 2016. 

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has decided to suspend its Latin American and Caribbean competition for the year 2017, so no applications will be accepted for that program.

Coming of age in Lao legends

This week, Bai and Peter Whittlesey briefly discussed the possibilities of reading the epic of Sinxay as a Bildungsroman. This certainly presents us with a very interesting question of what our expectations of the genre are when we look at global literature. In technical terms, there are also several distinct variations of the Bildungsroman, such as the Entwicklungsroman ("development novel") the Erziehungsroman ("education novel") and the Künstlerroman ("artist novel") regarding the protagonist's growth as an artist.

Of course, the epic of Sixay and many other Lao tales predates this German concept, but it's interesting to see where it might fit in. We would ask in such a case: does the young protagonist come upon the moral growth and understanding that is the hallmark of the genre? Is he at some points in conflict with his society and its expectations? There can be some interesting arguments made in support of this in the epic of Sinxay.

In the classic myths of Laos it often feels like many of the protagonists aren't in a critical state of conflict between their sense of duty and their desires. The moral path often seems clearly lain out before us. In the story of Manola and Sithong, for example, there are few who would suggest that Prince Sithong is grossly violating any of his royal duties or jeopardizing his crown in search of his wife, the Kinnaly princess Manola.

The epic of Phra Lak Phra Lam has some interesting moral twists and turns throughout the story, but the characters are really presented in a context where they are making the final steps towards maturity and understanding the world in some new light. They are, functionally, adults making adult choices unfettered by the uncertainties and caprices of youth.

In other stories where the princes and orphans are abused, cast out, or mistreated by jealous queens, nefarious Nyak or just the whims of the cosmos, the protagonists almost always choose the good of the realm and set aside the slights and torments they've personally experienced.

The exception that presently sticks out most in my mind would be the tales of the trickster Xieng Mieng, whose stories present a more interesting challenge for the community reading and presenting them. In those, he regularly demonstrates his wisdom often at the expense of the officials or figures in authority. It would be a stretch to call him an anti-hero, because he's not a nihilist, nor has he ever been depicted using his skills to deeply immoral ends. But there are cases where he definitely tests the limits of what can be tolerated.

In reading what's available, I think there is still significant room in our community for challenging coming of age stories and some conversations that are certainly necessary as our first wave of Lao American writers come of age themselves, and grow in their techniques and ideas.

Be sure to check out for some other blog posts exploring the possibilities of how Sinxay might speak to the present and future generations of our community.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And now some Dachshunds from Mars flash fiction from Carrie Cuinn...

Recently, editor and writer Carrie Cuinn was on a flash fiction tear, and I managed to get in a challenge for a piece featuring Dachshunds from Mars. And it was done.

Be sure to check out the rest of her work, and if you're in the need of an editor for your pieces, consider her. Reasonable rates, great turn-around, excellent critiques! She's been behind projects such as Lakeside Circus, Dagan Books, and much, much more.

Or heck, you can even just randomly throw money at her.

Carrie Cuinn is an author, editor, bibliophile, modernist, and geek. In her spare time she listens to jazz, watches indie films, cooks everything, reads voraciously, publishes a magazine, and sometimes gets enough sleep.

Zappcon 2016: October 15-16th

Lao American artist Nor Sanavongsay and I really enjoyed Zappcon last year, and it's returning for a third year in October. Once again, it will be held at the Fresno Convention Center.

Nor and I will see if we can have a table there, in addition to doing a panel for the audience. Last year we addressed the question of Southeast Asian superheroes and the classic myths and legends, as well as Lovecraftian Laos and the supernatural.

Nor had a great time drawing free sketches for people who visited our table. We had requests ranging from a Khmer version of Wonder Woman to popular characters like Nick Fury, Deadpool, and Attack On Titan heroines, and even Zappcon's own heroine, Zapp! It was wonderful to discuss the Lao folk hero of Xieng Mieng with visitors, and to see what the other artists were up to on their own projects.

We found it to be a friendly and fun convention with plenty to do as gamers, art collectors, cosplayers, comic book fans and so on. I really hope this becomes part of a very long tradition in the years ahead.

 Join them if you can!